YA romance ‘The Sun is Also a Star’ meanders, but its central love story will be compelling to tweens and teens.
Kernel Rating: 3 (3 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 100 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 12+. This YA romance follows two teenagers falling in love, and there are discussions about love and sex, some kissing and making-out scenes, including one that goes horizontal, and some crude jokes about sex (although there is no actual sex scene). There’s various cursing and rude jokes and insults; some violent scenes, including a speeding car hitting a bicyclist and a fistfight between two brothers; and some emotionally weighty themes, including a family being deported, moments of racism and cultural/social ignorance, and family friction regarding parental expectations and sibling rivalry.
By Roxana Hadadi
Author Nicola Yoon’s novel “Everything, Everything” inspired a lovely YA romance adaptation in which two teenagers from different racial and social backgrounds fell in love, and that same template is in place in “The Sun is Also a Star,” another Yoon novel that is now transformed for the big screen. For tween and teen fans of the book and love stories in general, “The Sun is Also a Star” will provide a romantic, if sometimes meandering, viewing experience.
The film focuses on two teenagers in New York City: Jamaican-American high school junior Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi), whose family is being deported from the United States the next day, and Korean-American high school senior Daniel Jae Ho Bae (Charles Melton), whose application to Dartmouth College includes an interview with an alumni of the school. Natasha wants to stay in New York City and doesn’t understand why her parents aren’t fighting the deportation order, and instead of packing, she is traveling between the court system and appointments with lawyers to try and find a way to remain in the U.S. Meanwhile, Daniel, who despite his parents’ wishes isn’t sure if he wants to be a doctor, spots Natasha in Grand Central Terminal and is instantly struck. Who is this girl?
What follows is a somewhat recognizable love story for the YA genre: Natasha, who aspires to be a scientist, doesn’t believe in love, doesn’t think that anything unmeasurable by the scientific method can be real. Daniel, who secretly dreams of being a poet instead of a doctor, is convinced that he can make Natasha fall in love with him in only one day. And so the two spend the morning, and then the afternoon, and then the night together, talking about their families, their cultural backgrounds, and their individual dreams. With Natasha’s deportation order, though, whether the two can form a real connection is in doubt.
“The Sun is Also a Star” shares certain elements with Yoon’s other work, “Everything, Everything,” in which the young woman protagonist was initially resistant to love and the young male protagonist is the one whose persistence and desire proves to the woman that she is capable of being loved. That may be somewhat imbalanced, and it might be worth talking about these relationship dynamics with tween or teen viewers who are besotted with Daniel after “The Sun is Also a Star,” but it is nice to see a relationship onscreen in which a woman is valued for her intelligence, knowledge, and interest in STEM.
New York City is as much of a character in “The Sun is Also a Star” as the teens themselves, and the film is clearly interested in showing how Natasha and Daniel demonstrate their personalities through their favorite locations in the city. And the script’s inclusion of political and cultural topics including deportation, immigration, and assimilation give the film a broader point of view than simply “two kids fall in love.” Nevertheless, the movie takes a little too much time building the relationship between Natasha and Daniel, and because it’s clear that these two will eventually fall in love, the initial acts drag. The pacing is off, and if viewers don’t immediately see themselves in these characters, they may not be willing to accompany Natasha and Daniel during their entire romantic journey.
For those who do, though, “The Sun is Also a Star” is a thoughtful exploration of what would make two people fall in love and how they retain their individualism while being attracted to each other. For young viewers, it’s a helpful lesson to learn.
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